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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Ascending to the god’s-eye view of reality

Frank Wilczek famously wrote: “A recurring theme in natural philosophy is the tension between the God’s-eye view of reality comprehended as a whole and the ant’s-eye view of human consciousness, which senses a succession of events in time. Since the days of Isaac Newton, the ant’s-eye view has dominated fundamental physics. We divide our description of the world into dynamical laws that, paradoxically, exist outside of time according to some, and initial conditions on which those laws act.

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Making babies: 21st century reproduction

Today, it is our understanding of the start of life, not its end, that’s being challenged. What does it take to reproduce? Once again, technological advancements are challenging one of our most familiar biological concepts. It used to be that there were only two ways for something to reproduce: either through the sort of sexual reproduction typical of most animals or through the asexual reproduction characteristic of things like bacteria.

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On our craving for generality

Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his Blue Book, chastised philosophers for what he called “our craving for generality.” Philosophers (including the earlier Wittgenstein of the Tractatus) certainly have exhibited this craving, and despite his admonishment, we continue to do so.

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Ten things you may not know about women and liberty

Imagine that you’re a married woman living in a bleak dystopian world in which you’re barred from higher education, you’re forbidden from owning your own property, you have no freedom of movement outside your own home, and your husband might sexually assault you at any time, with impunity.

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OUP Philosophy

How well do you know George Berkeley? [quiz]

This February, the OUP Philosophy team honours George Berkeley (1685-1753) as their Philosopher of the Month. Berkeley was born in Ireland but travelled Europe, lived in America, and eventually settled in London. He is best known for his work in metaphysics on idealism and immaterialism. How much do you know about the life and work of George Berkeley?

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The weight of love: ‘love locks’ as emotional objects

On the night of 8 June 2014, a section of the metal barrier on the Pont des Arts in Paris collapsed under the weight of thousands of padlocks which had been attached to it. Since the first decade of the twenty-first century, it has become increasingly common for famous (and sometimes less famous) bridges, and, increasingly, other monuments, to become encrusted with small padlocks in celebration of romantic love.

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My author. My friend?

Imagine you’ve sat down with your favorite novel. While you’re reading, what do you feel? If, in part, it’s an emotional connection with a character, you’re not alone. This is a common experience; and plenty has been written about it, in both popular and scholarly spaces. Because it’s powerful and strange, this feeling. Powerful enough to make you cry. Strange in that it’s fictional characters we’re talking about.

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How and why to study folk epistemology

Folk epistemology may be roughly characterized as the (mostly tacit) principles, presuppositions, and principles that involve epistemological notions such as knowledge, evidence, justification etc. Folk epistemological notions have not been as empirically well-studied as folk psychological notions such as belief, desire, and intention.

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OUP Philosophy

Philosopher of the month: George Berkeley [timeline]

This February, the OUP Philosophy team honours George Berkeley (1685-1753) as their Philosopher of the Month. An Irish-born philosopher, Berkeley is best known for his contention that the physical world is nothing but a compilation of ideas. This is represented by his famous aphorism esse est percipi (“to be is to be perceived”).

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How well do you know Jean-Jacques Rousseau? [quiz]

This January, the OUP Philosophy team honors Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) as their Philosopher of the Month. Rousseau was a Swiss writer and philosopher. He is considered one of the most important figures for his contribution to modern European intellectual history and political philosophy. His books have attracted both admiration and hostility during his lifetime.

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5 great unsolved philosophical questions

The discipline of philosophy covers the study of everything from the nature of knowledge, art, language, and the very nature of existence, to moral, ethical, and political dilemmas. Stemming from the Greek word “philosophia” there isn’t much that philosophers haven’t disputed over the years. Despite this, there are many key debates and great philosophical mysteries that remain unsolved—and quite possibly always will.

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OUP Philosophy

Philosopher of the month: Jean-Jacques Rousseau [timeline]

This January, the OUP Philosophy team honors Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) as their Philosopher of the Month. Rousseau was a Swiss writer and philosopher, considered important for his contribution to modern European intellectual history and political philosophy. He is best known for Social Contract (1762) with its famous opening line: “Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.”

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Philosophy: Eternal topics, evolving questions

Philosophers are famous for disagreeing on the issues that interest them. Is morality objective? Is the mind identical to the body? Are our actions free or determined? Some professional philosophers will say no to these questions—but an almost equal number will say yes. Moreover, empirical data bears this out.

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Organisms as societies

In the 19th century, biologists came to appreciate for the first time the fundamentality of the cell to all life. One of the early pioneers of cell biology, Rudolf Virchow, realized that the discovery of the cell brought with it a new way of seeing the organism and described it as a ‘cell state’. In the 20th century, this metaphor fell out of favour, but recent trends in biology suggest a revival.

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Are there true philosophical theories that we cannot believe?

Few philosophical theories are so hard to believe that no philosopher has ever defended them. But at least one theory is. Suppose that you think lying is wrong. According to a view that is known as the error theory, you then take lying to have a certain feature: you ascribe the property of being wrong to lying. But the error theory also says that this property does not exist.

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Philosophy in 2017: a year in review [timeline]

This year a lot happened in the field of philosophy. As we come to the end of 2017, the OUP Philosophy team have had a look back at the past year and its highs and lows. We’ve compiled a selection of the key events, awards, anniversaries, and passings which went on to shape philosophy in 2017, from Alvin Plantinga receiving the Templeton Prize to the death of Derek Parfit.

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